The long awaited announcement of Facebook Places this afternoon sure was anticlimactic. The “Check-in” is now institutionalized, and the masses of 500,000,000+ Facebook members can now enjoy what 2 million Foursquare members have been doing. But that was what was expected; the gorilla just tossed its hat into the ring.
The main function Facebook brings to the party is ubiquity:
Ever gone to a show, only to find out afterward that your friends were there too? With Places, you can discover moments when you and your friends are at the same place at the same time. (from Facebook blog)
“Checking in” has essentially been a kind of mindless activity, but its social context makes it meaningful within a massive network, like college students.
The locational media – Yelp, Foursquare and Gowalla, perhaps even Twitter – now become relegated to being the worker bees developing new applications and functionality for the check-ins Facebook will ultimately dominate, just as they are doing with “likes”. With the new Facebook Location API also being launched today, it seems natural for mobile app developers to build for the massive audience of Facebook. It’s up to the locational apps to differentiate themselves with specific functionality – Yelp has business reviews, Foursquare has branding deals with movie studios and other corporations, Groupon has local discount coupons.
The next step – watch Yelp, Foursquare and Gowalla double down on efforts to build the locational commerce applications that provide rewards for check-ins. Groupon has proven the revenue model associated with couponing (Forbes claims it’s the fastest growing company ever), and it’s low hanging fruit.